100 Cities Summit
A report from Jim Currin: Evangelisation, Mission and Media, Churches Together in England.
Over 250 network leaders of city unity movements from around the world gathered in Washington DC from 27th-29th November 2018 for the 100 Cities Summit, organised by Movement Day. This was an invitation event and included a delegation of about more than a dozen from England, in the Gather Network, facilitated by Roger Sutton.
Roger is well known to many in Churches Together in England and as a staff team we were pleased to keep working closely with the new 130 ‘Gather’ unity groups in England. I was therefore grateful to be part of the delegation representing CTE. This then is a report of that gathering.
The world gathering met in the newly opened Museum of the Bible, coordinated by the network of ‘Movement Day’, which brings together ‘gospel unity movements for city transformation’. Some readers may remember CTE was a partner in Gather/Movement Day last year when 1000 people gathered in London and the CTE Presidents led prayer in our own Parliament Square.
Reporting now on the world gathering this week, here are a few reflections.
First, is to note the gathering of momentum in England. Since working closely with Roger, the number of networks he quotes of new unity movements has risen in England from 100 to 130. There is a new network in Teesside for example, that has just produced a new video ‘Transforming Teesside Together’.
Second, in many parts of the world and in many major cities, church ‘unity’ is relatively new. It is very easy to take this for granted given the long CTE history. Thank God for the network leaders - often local pastors - who take the initiative to network through prayer and growing relationships, so the churches can together serve their place praying for transformation.
Third, as in England, there is a coming together of different streams. The new movements may be led by the church, and evangelical churches in particular, but the networks of prayer and action now include Christian business leaders, secular Service Providers, and community groups, as well as in the arts, education streams, all praying for mission as ‘transformation’.
Fourth, sharing lessons is key to building relationships. The first session in the ‘100 Cities Summit’ this week happened to start with Roger and colleagues from England. They shared stories of prayer and unity networks re Salford and the regeneration; Reading and the churches community action; ‘Together 4 Bristol’ that brings together intercessors, social action, Evangelical Alliance and Churches Together networks. We also heard about the Liverpool Pastor, offered a 5 acre public park for community use. In response we heard of new inspirational stories from other parts of the world including India, Malaysia, Africa, Australia, where again churches are uniting in prayer for city transformation.
Fifth, although not linked in any formal way, I can’t help but think this is all in line with other developments over recent years. Notably, Thy Kingdom Come as a catalyst for unity and transformation (praying for the kingdom to come transforms our society), but also the individual denominations collectively making mission a priority, as reflected in the CTE Theos report. Prayer, unity and mission is what we are doing more and more, perhaps even without realising it is a new movement!
Sixth, although the emphasis of Movement Day and especially the 100 Cities Summit this past week is deliberately focussed on ‘city movements’ there is much to be gleaned from ‘praying together’ and ‘city transformation’ that translates directly to our towns and villages. ‘Pray for Schools’ is a good example when 3 or more Christians meet regularly in a village to pray for their school. Another example is Faith and Police as it starts to develop many new prayer networks for our rural as well as urban neighbourhoods.
Seventh, we need to recognise that these new ‘gospel networks for city transformation’ around the world (the 100 Cities was only a sample of many more examples) are led by evangelicals. This is to be celebrated as a gift to the wider church, as unity movements are, by definition, embracing all traditions. A repeated phrase from the summit has stuck with me about this re who gets involved with the open agenda question: ‘Do you love Jesus; do you love your city; are you praying for transformation? If you are, then we want to work with you’. This seems a good set 3 simple questions to include Christians of all traditions.
Eighth, although the 100 Cities Summit was designed for leaders of networks, it was striking that little central reference was made to national and regional church leaders. There were plenty of stories shared that illustrated how regional church leaders were involved but not at the 100 Cities Summit itself. The real positive of this is that networks probably work best when everyone in the network share ownership in a ‘flat’ structure, but there is a great deal many of our area and national church leaders are doing to facilitate ‘prayer and transformation’ and I think they need involving and encouraging too.
Ninth - and I realise that I am heading for a ten-point list - is the link between ‘transformation’ and ‘coming Kingdom’. Personally, I think we need to explore further and ask the question, ‘When we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come” what does it look like?’ There were many illustrations of that in the stories from the 100 Cities Summit, from regeneration projects, crime reduction, education for the poorest transforming individual lives, but what, I wonder might be other signs, and how can ‘prayer and transformation’ be measured?
Tenth, are the questions that remain. ‘What am I praying for, and how does that relate to the prayers of my other Christian brothers and sisters in the place we serve?’ The most inspirational aspect of the 100 Cities Summit was the repeated story of some phenomenal and unexpected outcomes, sometimes on a huge scale, related in a variety of ways to Christians praying in unity. Partnerships with business, social services, education, civic authorities, community and faith groups were part of the story but often the story started with Christians praying together and seeking God’s purpose for their place.
If anyone would like to know more contact Jim Currin.